A version of this story by high school student Kai is published in Public Lab's Community Science Forum, Issue 18. Read more from this issue here.
What Began This Experiment
What began our research was an article that talked mainly about the problems causing air pollution. While we read this article, we soon found out that the cause for the air pollution is a plant across the river in Gramercy. This plant causes air pollution by putting mercury into the air, and we later learned that mercury can harm or kill us. We are doing an experiment in order to find out if there are any more areas as to where mercury is located. Though we cannot actually see the damage, it is still there. This is why we are doing this experiment: to find ways to raise awareness and to possibly get others to try and help protect the environment. I feel like the government does not really care about this issue because they have yet to do something to help stop the spread.
Something I learned through hands on research and data collection
Something that I have learned through hands-on research and data collection is how great it feels to work with my classmates and how fun it is to plant things in the garden we worked so hard to grow. I have even learned things about some of the plants in our garden like how the plants look before they fully grow, what they need, and how much of it the plant needs so that I don't overfeed it or drown it.
I loved talking with my classmates and getting to know them better so that I can maybe try to better my friendships with them. To be honest, before we let the balloon go into the air, I didn't notice how pretty our school is or how high 500 feet is. So I'm really glad that my teacher and other classmates were there to help me out.
How did this inform understanding of place, my role within my community, of environmental advocacy?
This informed our understanding of place by giving each student or group a certain thing to do during this activity, like there were people who helped release the balloon, inflate the balloon, and there were some students building something in a separate area. The same things those students did during the activity they could use to help their community by doing those exact same things. Maybe the things we did here at the school will actually help the environment around us get better.
An experience I had through this curriculum that stuck with me
An experience I had through this curriculum that stuck with me was digging in the dirt. For some reason, I found it very interesting to dig in the dirt. I think it was the animals I found, such as worms and centipedes that made it so interesting for me. But, I saw these animals and went home and looked them up in order to learn some things about them and to know if they could harm or destroy the plants in our garden. So what I'm trying to say is that I wanted to protect our garden that we worked so hard to grow. I luckily found out that centipedes can not really harm gardens but instead they help the garden because they eat the insects that can intentionally harm the garden, like Japanese Beetles, Leaf Miners, Winter Moths, and Codling Moths.
Some challenges that we had
One problem we had was when we were trying to tighten up the balloon but the person who wanted to tighten it was not strong enough to tighten it. So to solve this problem we found someone else who could manage to tighten the balloon. Another problem we had was with soil sampling. Three girls in a group were sampling soil but then one of the girls had volunteered to build something with another group of people. So, in order to fix this problem, I volunteered to help the other two girls with the rest of their soil sampling.
How my time with this curriculum exercised my creative brain
The time with this curriculum has exercised my brain by making me question what other problems could there be in the environment around us and how can I solve them with my classmates as a team. And I would also like to know how we can get more people involved because people might not feel the same way as others.